The recent spate of crowd violence during African Champions League matches continued this weekend. The latest episode occurred in Cairo Stadium during Egyptian side Ahly’s 1-0 win over Zambia’s ZESCO United in the second-leg of their last 16 clash.
The match was halted for more than five minutes in the second half after Ahly’s supporters lit the stadium with fireworks. The confusion took on a sinister edge when ZESCO’s Billy Mwanza was taken to hospital with an arm injury after being hit with a missile coming from the stands.
“Mwanza’s injury isn’t serious. We offered help but the ZESCO’s medical staff confirmed they can handle it,” Ahly’s doctor Waleed Abdel-Baki told Ahram Online.
“The referee warned us that he will cancel the game if these fireworks won’t stop,” says Ahly’s football director, Sayed Abdel-Hafiz.
Order is yet to return to Egyptian stadia since the January 25 Revolution that ousted the former regime. Last March, Zamalek were eliminated from the CAF Champions League after their fans invaded the pitch just moments before the final whistle during their last 16 clash against Tunisian side Club Africain.
The ugly scenes saw angry hooligans throwing stones and damaging the goal posts while other fans were made the most of being on the pitch to have their picture taken with the players in the midst of unprecedented disarray for Egyptian football.
Having lived through their own revolution, the Tunisian club’s supporters repeated the scenes when they invaded the pitch during the continental match between Club Africain and Sudanese side Al-Hilal on Saturday. The Sudanese visitors were leading 2-1 on aggregate in the 83rd minute when the host’s fans took to the pitch, forcing the referee to cancel the game.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) hit Zamalek with a $80,000-fine and ordered them to play two African matches behind closed doors for the action of their fans. The Tunisian’s punishment will be decided when CAF’s disciplinary committee next meets. It is expected that Ahly will also be added to the meeting’s agenda.
In the two revolutionist countries, the domestic competitions have been on hold for months following uncertainty and instability. The Egyptian and Tunisian leagues were marred by several incidents recently, including the use of fireworks, riots and even pitch invasions.
But apparently it would be unfair to link these events on the field to the revolutions. Similar pitch invasions last weekend in Germany, Turkey and Poland served as a reminder that football supporters react the same the world over, regardless of events surrounding them.